Compromised Immune System Affects Gut Bacteria

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Gut BacteriaGut bacterium is extremely vital for the health of the immune system. It is also well established that approximately 70% to 80% of immune tissue is located in the digestive system. An imbalance between good and bad bacteria will lead to health problems.

It is believed that a person’s health depends strongly on the diversity of the bacteria in the intestinal tract. How the immune system responds or tolerates the pathogenic gut bacteria will either cause or prevent disease.

In a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (IGC) in Portugal suggest that the immune system influences how gut bacteria evolves. The research team found that when the immune system is compromised, the gut bacteria balance changes. As a result, it is difficult to predict the pace and ways the gut bacteria adapt.

The study suggests that treating immune-related digestive issues and intestinal diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) involves addressing a person’s personalized gut bacteria instead of generalized treatment.

The gut is a very complex environment, and gut bacteria must evolve in order to cope with different stressors. For example, the variety of foods consumed daily can also play a major factor. The immune system will monitor the gut to ensure that the good bacteria are not mistaken for the bad bacteria.

The study doesn’t explain this process; however, it is the first experiment to show that the immune system does influence the gut bacteria using gut bacterium for the model. The results show that a healthy immune system could positively impact the destiny of the gut.

For the study, the researchers studied the gut bacteria called Escherichia coli (E. coli) in mice. E. coli is considered the first gut bacteria to colonize in both mice and human intestines after birth. The researchers compared healthy mice with those that lacked white blood cells, known as lymphocytes. The research team discovered that the metabolism and digestion of immune-deficient mice took longer to adapt to diet changes when compared to healthy mice. Also, the researchers noticed the genetic changes in gut bacteria were similar in healthy mice once the diet changed. On the other hand, genetic gut bacteria changes were more diverse among immune-deficient mice to the point where it was difficult to predict how the gut bacteria would evolve.

“We observed that this feature is due to changes in the composition of the community of bacteria in the intestine, which is more similar across individuals with a healthy immune system, and is quite diverse in animals with an immune compromised system,” explained the study’s lead author, Joao Batista.

Since there is a synergistic connection between the immune system and gut health, improving the digestion will also correct immunity. A good place to start is in the diet by replacing processed and poor quality foods with whole and nutrient-dense foods. Instrumental supplements for digestion include digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and probiotics.

Once work has been done, foods and supplements can later repair the gut, including fiber, quercetin, licorice, goldenseal, essential fatty acids, brown rice protein powders, cabbage, and okra. Stress management and exercise are also essential to improving immunity and digestive health.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Barroso-Batista, J., et al., “Adaptive immunity increases the pace and predictability of evolutionary change in commensal gut bacteria,” Nature Communications, 2015; 6(8945), doi: 10.1038/ncomms9945.
“Immune system affects gut bacteria,” ScienceDaily web site, December 2, 2015; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151202132706.htm.
Paddock, C., “Immune system influences evolution of gut bacteria, study shows,” Medical News Today web site, December 3, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/303484.php.
Holmes, L., “Your Gut and Immune System Connection (Recipe & Giveaway),” Food Matters web site, July 21, 2014; http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/your-gut-and-immune-system-connection-recipe-giveaway.
Mathews, L., “5 Quick Tips for Healthy Guts and a Healthier Immune System,” Breaking Muscle web site; http://breakingmuscle.com/health-medicine/5-quick-tips-for-healthy-guts-and-a-healthier-immune-system, last accessed December 3, 2015.


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Jon Yaneff, CNP

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Jon Yaneff is a holistic nutritionist and health researcher with a background in journalism. After years of a hectic on-the-go, fast food-oriented lifestyle as a sports reporter, Jon knew his life needed a change. He began interviewing influential people in the health and wellness industry and incorporating beneficial health and wellness information into his own life. Jon’s passion for his health led him to the certified nutritional practitioner (CNP) program at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. He graduated with first... Read Full Bio »